Friday, February 24, 2006

In Search of a Church

A CrossI think that the majority of this blog's readers are theologians (because they've clicked through from Mark's blog) Others may have religious affiliations of one sort or another; and I think that most are probably Christian. The Christian umbrella extends far -- from the very conservative to the more liberal.

On arriving in the US, we found ourselves unfamiliar with the layout of the Christian landscape (although Mark knows a lot more than I do). We decided that we would try out different churches to see what we think before deciding where to attend on a regular basis. We decided which church to attend each week by proximity to where we live, working outwards. We looked at their websites first; just to make sure that they weren't TV evangelists or any other sort of weird.

Some churches had written liturgies and traditional worship/hymns, while others had less formal, unwritten liturgies and contemporary worship styles. Personally, I like both styles.

The more formal churches have structure, the sermons (and services) tend to be shorter and many of the old hymns have much more about them than modern hymns/choruses. On the down side, I have a short attention span and get bored very easily, although the ability to follow the service in the prayerbook keeps me going. The churches that described their worship styles as "contemporary" tended to have choruses. Any hymns tended to be up-tempo.

In England, over the years, I have been to different types of churches. Some were traditional (with written liturgies), others had contemporary worship styles and others still practiced charismaticism. Here, although styles of worship varied between churches, there was no hint of charismaticism in any of them. I found this quite interesting because, in my experience, contemporary worship styles quite often (although not always) went hand in hand with charismaticism.

When we visited each church, we had to ask ourselves what we want from a church?

I think that the most important thing is that there is enough to keep the children engaged. We don't want them to get disillusioned with church. In many churches, children become disillusioned at around teenage. Often, this disillusionment with the church extends to a more general rejection of Christian beliefs. I think that this is caused by certain perceptions (whether true or not):

  • that people within the church are judgemental
  • that people with in the church are hypocritical
  • that the church doesn't have adequate answers to questions being asked. When asking questions, they may be left with apologetic responses that don't satisfy.
  • that they don't have any friends within the church
  • that church services are boring
The most important thing is that we don't want Emily and Lauren to become disillusioned.

When we'd looked at quite a few churches and our radius was extending a bit farther than we'd like, we decided to take stock. We looked at all the churches we'd visited and discussed what we liked and what we didn't like about each one. We eventually settled on a medium-sized (by US standards) church with a contemporary worship style. We chose this church mainly because it was not too far from where we live and because it has a lot of children of Emily and Lauren's ages. We'll have to see how it goes from here.


Michael said...

I hope that the church is a good fit for your entire family. Of course, you could drop us a hint as to the denomination or affiliation. :)

Justin J. Buol said...

I'm surprised none of the churches had even a hint of charismaticism. My dad lives in southeastern Tennessee and there are so many Pentecostal/Charismatic churches there. I guess I figured that the rest of the south was the same.

Lorraine said...

A worship style that you are comfortable with and good teaching from the pulpit are important factors in the decision. But what I've found to be the real sell, and the thing that brought me back to organized religion after a 15 year hiatus, was finding a loving, support community of believers to share all that with. (It was the judgemental/hypocritical thing that sent me running in the first place). Andrew Greeley wrote "If you find a perfect church, by all means join. But understand that in joining it just became imperfect". Not that you are looking for perfection...I just think it's a nice thing to remember. I hope you will find that faith community...I think that will be a big part of what will keep the girls engaged. God bless.

crystal said...

Intersting post. I didn't grow up in a church but converted when I was an adult. What i care about, I guess, is the kindness/authenticity of the members, the ideology of the homilies ... and is it within walking distance, since I can't drive :-)

Viola said...

I agree -- love/support/kindness/authenticity are most important. In the church that we attended when in Birmingham, we didn't always see eye to eye in matters of doctrine, but they visited and prayed for those in need and were very kind and loving people. As far as I'm concerned, that's most important.

I think that these are the sorts of traits that become evident over time. I would have to be in the church and get to know people before they become apparant (or not, as the case may be). Even if a church seems friendly to visitors, one cannot initially tell how superficial this is. We decided to just pick a church that seems OK and hope for the best.

Justin -- as far as charismaticism is concerned, perhaps it does exist, but we didn't go to any such churches. Who knows?